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News and Media
Our latest and archived media releases and news articles.
16 January 2017
HRC clinical research training fellow Dr Jin Russell was recently awarded the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) 2016 New Zealand Paediatric Trainee Research Award for Excellence.
Jin is an advanced trainee in general paediatrics and community child health with the RACP. She is currently completing a PhD in paediatrics at the University of Auckland's Centre for Longitudinal Research – He Ara Ki Muawas - with the support of a HRC clinical research training fellowship.
For her doctoral research project 'Pathways to healthy development in New Zealand preschool children', Jin is investigating early child health and developmental trajectories and how these early life trajectories may be socially stratified. Her research draws on data collected in New Zealand’s contemporary, longitudinal study of child development Growing Up in New Zealand. This multidisciplinary study is tracking the development of nearly 7000 children born in 2009-10, in the context of their diverse environments, from before birth through to adulthood.
Jin’s award-winning presentation was entitled 'Cumulative socioeconomic disadvantage increases the risk of multi-morbidity in early childhood'.
“The research I presented showed that the prevalence of children with multiple chronic conditions (multi-morbidity) in early childhood is much more common than previously reported in the literature,” says Jin.
“Most previously published studies have suggested that multi-morbidity in children is relatively uncommon, at a prevalence of 2 per cent or so. My research shows that one in ten children in the Growing Up in New Zealand cohort experiences multiple chronic conditions.”
She found that when mothers reported higher levels of social disadvantage, their children were more likely to experience multiple chronic conditions at age two. In contrast to previously reported studies, she showed that the relationship remained statistically significant at the highest level of disadvantage even after taking other possible explanatory factors into account.
Jin says that the number of people living with multiple chronic conditions makes this a significant health issue, and challenges the single-disease framework that dominates the literature.
“Children with multiple chronic conditions are at increased risk of other poor outcomes such as educational difficulties, disability, family breakdown, and developmental delay,” she adds.
Her award includes travel and accommodation expenses and the opportunity to present her research at the RACP Congress in Melbourne in May 2017.
News article courtesy of Growing Up in New Zealand (University of Auckland)
9 January 2017
Infants sleeping in wahakura (flax bassinets) are relatively safe when compared with bassinets, a joint study between the University of Otago and Otago Polytechnic has found.
The researchers, led by Professor Barry Taylor and Dr David Tipene-Leach of the University of Otago, and Associate Professor Sally Baddock of Otago Polytechnic, concluded there were no significant differences in risk behaviours in wahakura compared to bassinets, and there were other advantages, including an increase in sustained breastfeeding.
The paper was recently published in leading scientific journal Pediatrics.
The study, which was funded by grants from the Health Research Council of New Zealand and the University of Otago, finds evidence that wahakura are relatively safe and can be promoted as an alternative to infant-adult bed-sharing.
“The study was motivated by the concern that Māori and other indigenous populations have greater rates of sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI). This is likely due to the high prevalence of bed-sharing where there has been smoking in pregnancy – a combination that is a major contributor to risk,” says Professor Taylor.
Both bed-sharing and smoking have proved difficult to change and thus the wahakura was developed as a culturally appropriate alternative to direct bed-sharing.
Dr David Tipene-Leach says: “The wahakura is promoted to provide a separate and safer sleep space for baby that can be used in the shared bed and therefore that allows the valued close proximity for mother and baby.”
While wahakura are used by many, to date there has been no direct evidence about their safety.
Researchers recruited 200 predominantly Māori pregnant women from deprived areas of New Zealand as measured by the NZ Deprivation Index. They provided the women with either a wahakura or bassinet during pregnancy and then later compared the risks and benefits of infants sleeping in either device. They investigated breastfeeding, infant sleep position, the amount of infant head covering during sleep, the amount of bed-sharing (without the device), and maternal sleep and fatigue.
Associate Professor Baddock says mothers were asked to sleep babies in either a bassinet or wahakura from birth. At 1, 3 and 6 months mothers completed questionnaires about babies’ sleep and at one month infra-red video was used to record the baby’s overnight sleep.
“Overnight video of the babies sleeping in the devices identified no increase in head covering, prone/side sleep position or bed-sharing (without the device) in the wahakura group, either when analysed according to allocated device or when analysed according to the device baby slept in on the study night,” she says.
When the groups were compared according to allocated device there were no differences at 1, 3 and 6 months in infant-adult direct bed-sharing, but at the six-month interview the wahakura group reported twice the level of full breastfeeding.
“These findings will give comfort to health workers who will be able to confidently promote a device that encourages a form of bed-sharing that increases safety for infants,” Dr Tipene-Leach says.
The Ministry of Health is currently developing a national Safe Sleep programme and this study provides much-needed evidence about the wahakura.
News article courtesy of the University of Otago
21 December 2016
Dr Palatasa Havea has been confirmed as the new chair of the HRC Pacific Health Research Committee.
Palatasa has a PhD in food technology from Massey University and is a senior research scientist at Fonterra in Palmerston North. He has invented several technologies at Fonterra that have resulted in the commercialisation of nutritional dairy products (10 patents) aimed at addressing some of the major nutritional and health issues in many parts of the world.
Palatasa, who is of Tongan descent, has been a member of the HRC Pacific Health Research Committee since December 2012. He has also been very active in the New Zealand Pasifika community, serving on a range of boards, committees, and reference groups. He recently stepped down from the Minister of Pacific Island Affairs Advisory Council, where he served for 13 years and chaired for the past three years.
Palatasa takes over the HRC Pacific committee chair role from Dr Mele Taumoepeau. Mele, a senior lecturer at the University of Otago's Psychology Department, has been a HRC Pacific Health Research Committee member since 2000 and served as its chair from 2014 to 2016. She has provided outstanding leadership, expertise and knowledge and will be greatly missed.
The HRC Pacific Health Research Committee also welcomes Dr Ofa Dewes to its team. Ofa is an affiliate investigator of the Maurice Wilkins Centre for Molecular Biodiscovery and a research fellow at the School of Nursing, University of Auckland. Her research interests include Pacific ethnic-specific studies across the lifespan, especially in health equity, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and ageing.
Ofa was recently awarded a two-year project grant from the National Science Challenge for 'Ageing Well'. Here she will lead a research team investigating older Pacific people's experiences in palliative care, and the challenges faced by their aiga (family) who carry out the bulk of their care. She will also be a co-researcher on another 'Ageing Well' study led by Auckland University of Technology to understand what factors older Pacific people consider important for their wellbeing.
Ofa is Fiji-born of Rotuman, Tongan, and Tuvaluan ethnicity, with affiliation to Ngati Porou.
14 December 2016
We are pleased to welcome a new member to the HRC's Pacific Health Research Committee, Auckland University of Technology Senior Research Fellow Dr El-Shadan Tautolo.
Dr Tautolo's primary area of research specialisation is the health and well-being of Pacific families and communities in New Zealand. He has a strong association with the HRC, having completed a HRC Pacific PhD Scholarship and a HRC Pacific Postdoctoral Fellowship. Both of these studies focused on how Pacific fathers influence the development of their children.
Dr Tautolo is currently director of the Centre for Pacific Health and Development Research and the Pacific Islands Families (PIF) Study, an ongoing birth cohort study of 1398 Pacific families, based in South Auckland, New Zealand.
Dr Tautolo was born and raised in South Auckland, but has always maintained strong links to his Samoan and Cook Island heritage. He says one of the most rewarding parts of his research is reporting back to Pacific communities and inspiring the next generation through his mentoring work.